Japan weighs need to bury nuclear plant; tries to restore power | Pakistan Today

Japan weighs need to bury nuclear plant; tries to restore power

TOKYO – Japanese engineers conceded on Friday that burying a crippled nuclear plant in sand and concrete may be a last resort to prevent a catastrophic radiation release, the method used to seal huge leakages from Chernobyl in 1986. But they still hoped to solve the crisis by fixing a power cable to two reactors by Saturday to restart water pumps needed to cool overheating nuclear fuel rods. Workers also sprayed water on the No.3 reactor, the most critical of the plant’s six.
It was the first time the facility operator had acknowledged burying the sprawling complex was possible, a sign that piecemeal actions such as dumping water from military helicopters or scrambling to restart cooling pumps may not work. “It is not impossible to encase the reactors in concrete.
But our priority right now is to try and cool them down first,” an official from the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, told a news conference. As Japan entered its second week after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and 10-metre (33-foot) tsunami flattened coastal cities and killed thousands of people, the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl looked far from over. The nuclear disaster has triggered global alarm and reviews of safety at atomic power plants around the world. “This is something that will take some time to work through, possibly weeks, as you eventually remove the majority of the heat from the reactors and then the spent-fuel pools,” Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told a news conference at the White House.
Millions of people in Tokyo continued to work from home, some fearing a blast of radioactive material from the complex, 240 km (150 miles) to the north, although the International Atomic Energy Agency said radiation levels in the capital were not harmful. That is little solace for about 300 nuclear plant workers toiling in the radioactive wreckage. They are wearing masks, goggles and protective suits whose seams are sealed off with duct tape to prevent radioactive particles from creeping in. “My eyes well with tears at the thought of the work they are doing,” Kazuya Aoki, a safety official at Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, told Reuters. Even if engineers restore power at the plant, the pumps may be too damaged from the earthquake, tsunami or subsequent explosions to work. The first step is to restore electricity to pumps for reactors No.
1 and 2 by Saturday. By Sunday, the government expects cooling pumps for badly damaged reactors No.3 and No.4 to have power, said Hidehiko Nishiyama, Japan’s nuclear agency spokesman. Asked about burying the reactors in sand and concrete, he said: “That solution is in the back of our minds, but we are focused on cooling the reactors down.”



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